With Roma yet to play, the weekend saw the chasing pack get a chance to make up ground. Giancarlo Rinaldi rounds up who took their opportunities – and who let them slip.
It is the mark of champions that they mess things up much less than their would-be rivals. Cutting out silly mistakes and avoidable defeats or draws is a key element to winning trophies. And Juventus gave proof of their proficiency in that department once again at the weekend.
With Roma to play a Monday night match there was a shot for all the sides trailing in the wake of Rudi Garcia’s men to play a little catch-up. For most of them, the pressure of the situation proved too much to take. That was not the case for Antonio Conte’s team, however, despite taking a makeshift defence on the road to Livorno.
It will have cheered Bianconeri everywhere to see the names on the scoresheet too. Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente are starting to become exactly the kind of double act everyone at the club hoped they would be. It allowed an overtaking manoeuvre which will test the resolve of the Giallorossi when they go into action against Cagliari.
“Every game we play together things get better and better,” said Juve’s Spanish striker in words about his partnership with the Argentine front man which had an ominous ring. “We are getting to know each other more and more and every match we get stronger physically. We did what we had to do and we hope to keep going like that – starting with Copenhagen in the Champions League.”
It was all in stark contrast to the efforts of some of the other sides in the upper reaches of the table who could have made a move forward themselves. Napoli, Fiorentina and Verona all suffered single goal defeats which left them standing still instead of advancing. Each one will have lessons to learn from how they were defeated.
First to taste the bitter pill were Rafa Benitez’s men on Saturday night at home to Parma. An Antonio Cassano strike was enough to decide the game and have the boy from Bari dreaming about a return to La Nazionale. “I am pleased for the goal and, of course, I still think about playing for the Azzurri,” he admitted. “If I go to Brazil I would be happy but, if not, I’ll spend time with my family and go on a holiday to the beach.”
As for the Viola, they flattered to deceive before slipping behind to a Thomas Heurtaux goal in Udine. After that they played some pretty patterns but showed a total lack of cutting edge as Francesco Guidolin’s men got a vital victory for their relegation worries. As for Vincenzo Montella, he might have wanted to pull the purple scarf he was wearing up over his head in frustration. This was not his team’s finest hour and underlined that even a top three finish requires quite a stretch of the imagination.
Defeat will have hurt most for Hellas. To lose a derby game is always a painful experience but to succumb to a side as low on confidence as Chievo will have stung all the more. The Flying Donkeys now lead 2-1 in their encounters in Serie A.
Even Inter, in Sunday’s night game, could not really take advantage of the slip-ups of all those around them. Having fallen behind when Panagiotis Kone finished off a fine, sweeping counter-attack they looked to have paved the way for a comeback with a deflected Jonathan shot early in the second half. However, try as they might they could not quite snap the resolve of Stefano Pioli’s battling side and had to settle for a share of the points.
But nobody took their weekend result more badly than the fans in the San Siro. A home draw with Genoa might be thought of as frustrating but when you have a penalty and most of the match against 10 men to turn things around it takes on a more terrifying aspect. Certainly, for some Rossonero diehards, it was simply too much to take.
And so, after the banners urging their team to show some fight, a group of fans waited outside the ground to voice their displeasure. If they thought that was going to get rid of Max Allegri, they will clearly have to think again – at least for the time being. “I’m absolutely not thinking about stepping down,” he insisted. “We need to have patience and not make a drama out of the situation, Milan will rise again. Now we will go to Glasgow to play Celtic in the Champions League to try to make the knock-out stages.” Anyone who has seen them play of late, however, must question how realistic a prospect that is and – furthermore – how desirable it would be for this team to cross swords with some of Europe’s elite.
The weekend’s other games saw Catania crushed by Torino, Sassuolo stride out of the drop zone with a win over Atalanta and an epic finale to Sinisa Mihajlovic’s debut on the Sampdoria bench against another of his old teams, Lazio. Leading 1-0 but down to 10 men it looked like the Blucerchiati would hold on for a win but a late, late Lorik Cana goal allowed the visitors to salvage a draw. Miha will be pleased with how his boys battled, but whether that is enough to save their Serie A lives is a matter for some debate.